Priest sex abuse jurors ask: What’s an ‘ephebophile’?

Posted: June 07, 2012

After spending two days inquiring about complex legal terms, jurors at the clergy-sex abuse trial appeared to struggle Wednesday to agree on the meaning of "agree."

That was one of words they asked Common Pleas Court Judge M. Teresa Sarmina to parse for them. The panel also wanted definitions of "pedophile" and "ephebophile." And they asked to see evidence related to 13 accused priests who had been mentioned during the landmark trial.

The requests marked the third time in as many days of deliberations that the panel of seven men and five women sought guidance or evidence in the child endangerment and sex-abuse against Msgr. William J. Lynn and the Rev. James J. Brennan.

They got some answers, but ended the day without signs they were near a verdict.

The lawyers agreed that pedophiles generally refer to adults who are sexually attracted to children and that ephebophiles are drawn to adolescents.

But Alan J. Tauber, one of four lawyers for Lynn, noted that neither side offered an expert during the trial to define the terms. He said it would be wrong to do so now.

"The parties chose how they were going to present the case," he said. "I think (the jurors) have to rely on the evidence."

Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington agreed. "The words have both medical and common definitions," he said.

Jurors also asked the judge to explain the meaning of "agree" in a conspiracy. She reread them her jury instruction, which described such a pact as "a common understanding."

Minutes later, they had a follow-up question: Do all parties in a conspiracy have to know they are committing a crime?

No, the judge replied in a written note.

The stream of questions had the defendants, their lawyers, reporters and others parading back and forth to the courtroom throughout the day.

As she walked off the bench after toward the end of the day, Sarmina quipped to the lawyers: "So, I guess I'll see you all at the next question."

That next one became the last one: The jurors asked if they could have a marker board and an easel.

They'll get it when they return Thursday morning, Sarmina said. Then she excused them for the day.

Lynn, the former clergy secretary for the archdiocese, is accused of conspiracy and endangering children by recommending a priest, Edward Avery, for assignments in the 1990s despite alleged signs they might abuse minors. Avery, who has since been defrocked has pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a 10-year-old altar boy in 1999.

Brennan is accused of trying to rape a 14-year-old boy in 1996, and of endangering other unnamed children when he served as a parish priest in the ensuing years.

Contact John P. Martin at 215-341-2597 or at Follow him @JPMartinInky on Twitter.

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